Volume 21, Number 3 | THE NEWSPAPER OF LOWER MANHATTAN | May 30 - June 5, 2008
Wall St. bankers with money burning a hole in their pocket will have a new place to spend it: Cipriani Wall Street is opening a private club beneath its sweeping landmark ballroom.
For $5,000 to $10,000 a year, members will have access to their own barbershop, manicure/pedicure salon, boutique shop and spa. Hollywood execs can book the small screening room to show films that have not yet been released in theaters. Should the wealthy clientele feel a bit under the weather, a doctor is on call and will turn up with an old-fashioned medical bag. The club will open in several months, but UnderCover got a glimpse of the belowground hallways and rooms, and they now look more like a construction site, coated in dust and cluttered with paper and painting materials.
Upstairs from the club at 55 Wall St. are luxury condos, a first for the Cipriani family. Nearly all sold, they start at $2.9 million, an insider tells UnderCover. Some wealthy investors buy the condos and then lease them out, for shorter term stays. Among other amenities, the condo dwellers have free use of the building’s extensive private library, a high-ceilinged, solemn space with chandeliers worthy of a ballroom and furniture that looks too expensive to touch. Residents also get a complimentary basket on weekend mornings with fresh fruit and croissants or rolls just out of the oven.
Hospitality is the theme here, which means that 24-hour convenience is a given. UnderCover found kitchens hidden seemingly around every corner of the building, where chefs prepare food around the clock. Late on a weekend night, the smell of baking bread wafts through the hallways as the staff prepares the next morning’s breakfast baskets.
Beneath the kitchens and bustling hallways lie six floors of former jail cells. The air down there is cold and dank, with narrow hallways and low ceilings. The jail cells, too, are long and narrow, a rounded coffin shape, with no windows, heat or plumbing. Today, they make a good place to store the round tables that line the ballroom during parties.
The Cipriani building, which escaped Donald Trump’s grasp a decade ago, was built to hold the New York Merchants’ Exchange and also served as headquarters for National City Bank. Deep below the surface, you can still catch a glimpse of the gold-glinting floor-to-ceiling vault.
The ballroom, though, is the main attraction. A catwalk running along one wall has seen the footsteps of stars from Rihanna and 50 Cent to Ray Romano and Elvis Costello, all performing for charity events. Hallways above the ballroom lead to a large room for the stars’ entourage, which opens into a smaller room for two or three of the most trusted staff, which in turn opens into the smallest room of all: the performer’s private dressing room. Cipriani can of course provide the celebrities with any drink they desire, but UnderCover hears the biggest singers all drink the same thing before they perform: hot water with lemon and honey.
New York state of mind
It took two weeks, but Senators Hillary Clinton and Chuck Schumer followed the rest of New York’s Congressional delegation in slamming the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for avoiding funding 9/11 health programs for residents.
Clinton and Schumer sent a letter to the H.H.S. last Friday demanding answers after the H.H.S. said it needed more time to study the health problems of residents, office workers and students. But Clinton and Schumer say there have been plenty of studies they cite the New England Journal of Medicine and they want the funding released now as the budget law requires. At the very least, they’re asking for a detailed list of the H.H.S.’s actions and a specific timeline for the future.
It’s been a tough couple weeks for Hillary, with broad calls for her to drop out of the presidential race, but she’s stubbornly clinging to her candidacy. That’s the same persistence she’s needed to face off against the H.H.S. and press the 9/11 environmental case the last seven years maybe that’s where she learned it.
Ben Krull’s Downtown Express humor column last week about being called “Dan” on a regular basis, must have hit a nerve. National media blogger Romenesko posted it on one of his sites, triggering almost 100 comments many from people relating their own misidentification woes.
And speaking of Downtown Express op-ed pieces, Daniel Squadron, a state senatorial candidate, tells us that last week’s announcement about Larry Silverstein and the Port Authority renegotiating their World Trade Center redevelopment deadlines shows the strength of the arguments he made on these pages in February.
Squadron, who co-authored a bestseller with Sen. Chuck Schumer, wrote that the Port and Silverstein should renegotiate the deadlines with the community in mind and prohibit noisy construction in the wee hours. The powers that be took Squadron’s renegotiation suggestion, but ignored the rest, once again leaving neighborhood concerns out. The Port gave Silverstein more time to get Merrill Lynch to cross West St. into a W.T.C. tower.
“This proves A) you can negotiate the deadlines as I called for, and B) you can set some new priorities,” Squadron told us. “The community should have been a priority.”
Josh Rogers, 41, Downtown Express’s associate editor, is saying bye happily to bachelorhood Sunday as he plans to marry Sarah Wolff, 42, an assignment editor at Fox News, Sunday, June 1 at the Joseph Ambler Inn in North Wales, Penn. The couple will be honeymooning on Martha’s Vineyard.